Renault has made a re-entry into the Indian market. After just six months, the French manufacturer has launched its third product, but this time it’s aimed at the masses. It’s the Renault Pulse, which is basically the Nissan Micra. Or is it ?
In October of last year, the much awaited premium small car from Renault was revealed by the French, and they called it the Renault Pulse – an upscale compact car. It wasn’t a big surprise to us that the car was going to be heavily based on the Micra, which was developed by their Japanese counterparts, but when we finally got the car for a test feature we were, or at least I was, left dumbfounded. The Renault Pulse is the exact same car as the Nissan Micra with unnoticeable and subtle differences coming in from the design department. According to Renault, the car was designed by Renault’s design centre in Mumbai, but in reality all they really did was sit down, drink coffee, eat croissants and do nothing at all. This sharing of platforms was also acted out by Skoda and Volkswagen with the Rapid and Vento. It is decisions like these, made by billion dollar companies that really make me wonder – just what in the hell are they trying to do?
Sure, these companies need to cut costs, reduce production time, and of course they need to produce cars with low emissions so they can satisfy their quota, but again, it’s just a selfish act of depriving the customer of choice in order for manufacturers to penetrate into a market. Renault are in a frenzy to grab a chunk of the powerful Indian market, so is VW, and this act by both VW and Renault just goes to show their desperation to make a mark over here. Anyway, this is supposed to be a test feature, not an opinionated attack on lazy corporate governance, so let’s move on and get down to business.
I musn’t make the mistake to not mention that, however extreme my above statements maybe, the Renault Pulse is still a brilliant car. We had driven the 1.5 litre diesel Micra and we loved it, and the Renault Pulse, although the same car as the Micra, just somehow seems a little better. We had the 1.5-litre diesel RxZ version, which is the highest variant available and comes with a lot more options and features that the Micra didn’t have, such as electronic side view mirrors that shut automatically. But when I say that the Renault Pulse is a bit better than the Micra, I am not referring to the added features, or the small exterior changes that also make the Renault Pulse look better and more sportier than the Micra, I am talking about the way the car drives.
The dimensions of the Renault Pulse are identical to the Micra, its suspension setup is the same, and the 1461cc diesel, 4-cylinder engine generating 64bhp and 160Nm and mated to a 5-speed manual transmission turning the front wheels is exactly the same. So how can I say that the Renault Pulse drives better? Well, to be honest I am not quite sure exactly. The Renault Pulse somehow seems to have more power and a better pick up than the Micra, it also seems to have a slightly better suspension and better grip on the tarmac. The way the car handled was pretty good as well, and it just seemed to be an overall fun car to drive, especially with the fact that there’s almost no turbo lag from when you stomp your foot on the gas pedal to when the car picked up power and zoomed down the road – power response was fantastic. The only negative aspect was that the brakes were a little too soft, and when you’re travelling at high speeds you really need to step down hard on the brakes if you want to make a quick stop.
If you look at the Renault Pulse, you will be able to make out that the front section seems longer, and that is because the front brace has been modified from that sported in the Micra. Because of this, the front end looks sharper and sportier with a large hexagonal grille that’s inspired from the Nissan GT-R and a typically European matt black centre section, which is commonly found in most Reanult cars. The Renault Pulse is also slightly heavier than the Micra – 1050Kg as against 1008kg of the Nissan. This maybe due to the heavier front section of the Renault Pulse and this is perhaps why the suspension feels better planted than in the Micra, and hence a little more enjoyable around turns, with more grip.
The interiors of the Renault Pulse are exactly the same as the Micra – there is not a single difference. It’s got an audio unit, automatic climate control, power windows, and a keyless ignition start-stop button. The features are probably the best found in any hatch, but then again this is a premium hatch and is not going to be to easy on your pocket, especially for the top end variant. Corporate policy and platform sharing aside, the Renault Pulse is an all-round great car that is easy and fun to drive, is comfortable with its huge cabin space and looks good. A must mention note is that the 1.5 dCi engine provides very good fuel efficiency and that is a pretty important USP today. The car will be produced in the Renault-Nissan plant in Chennai along with the Micra, and is expected to go on sale in the beginning of 2012.
Renault is really hoping to tap the market and they will not stop with the Renault Pulse as they also plan to bring in the Duster and another sedan in 2012, which will allow them to offer a product in almost every segment of the market. That is something I look forward to – an invasion of hot cars from a well respected European manufacturer, and not some duplicate product with two different badges. Luckily for us the duplicates in this case are both good cars.
|Engine||1461cc / 4 cylinders / 8 valves / SOHC / Common Rail Direct Injection|
|Transmission||5-speed manual / Front-Wheel Drive|
|Power||63bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||160Nm @ 2000rpm|
|XFactor||Nissan Micra’s evil twin – a bit better looking, and more lively sibling.|